With the help of numerous sponsors and corporations like Ordr.In and Addteq, HackNJIT has come back to campus after a 3-year hiatus. During HackNJIT, participating students have only 24 hours to create any application or hack from scratch. At the end of the 24 hours, every completed project gets judged and prizes are awarded.
However, it wasn’t just a bunch of coders sitting in front of computers, coding away while sipping that new Dorito flavored Mountain Dew. Businesses were born, sword fights were battled, and doors were locked as hackers were in the campus center after closing. So, what goes on in the head of a hackathon participant? More specifically, what is it like for any new participants?
I have done numerous game jams, from web jams like Ludum Dare and the Global Game Jam but HackNJIT was definitely a new experience for me, as it was for a lot of people at the hackathon with similar backgrounds. Game jams and hackathons aren’t any different in terms of how the development cycle works but they still provide different atmospheres.
There was a never-ending tension on my shoulder during HackNJIT, a feeling that I have something I have to prove and that the less code I write the worse off I felt I was. Though, at the same time, everyone had that feeling, and it kept us awake, and it kept us wanting to work harder and better.
Every hour felt like a few minutes. Every word in the room was either some crazy algorithm or about cool features people were trying to add into their apps. Headphones were glued to everyone’s ears as they worked.
However, this obsession to code was second to everyone being able to let loose and have fun. I, along with members of the NJIT ACM, had a crazy Checkers run at 5AM as all of us were running off of no sleep and a lot of sugar that was provided by GDS catering services. Foam sword fights were a common stress reliever in the back of the ballroom. Then when it came down to work, people were really excited to talk about what they were making. The factory food guys jumped at any chance to talk about their awesome ideas and the guys working on the bitcoin frontend web miner couldn’t stop gushing about the awesome colors and sliding effects on their website.
Then you have me. I never finished my project. I had the unfortunate mishap of treating HackNJIT as a way to make my first mobile app. I never had the chance to show off what I wanted because I got stuck trying learning how to set-up my development environments that I was forced to dumb down to easier software and continue to dumb it down until I had to dip due to muscle cramps from that crazy Checkers run at 5AM. But, I don’t regret the experience. I learned a lot and everyone else with me learned a lot as well. A lesson, though, use technologies you already know and expand those, don’t use a hackathon to learn a whole new technology.